Where to Go in Mexico if Tulum’s Not Your Vibe

Tulum not your scene? These are Mexico’s hottest new hangouts for 2022 – minus the crowds.

Let's face it, Tulum is pretty much Mexico's answer to O Beach Ibiza. The shoreline is often flooded with influencers snapping their bikini of the day, while streets are crammed with posey tourists taking selfies for their next Facebook post. With that in mind, we've been on the hunt to find Mexico's lesser-trodden locations - places that offer both a buzzy energy and buckets of charm, but without the crowds. Read on for our seven favourite tourist-free Mexican destinations to visit in 2022.

Mexican magic: our seven favourite destinations

Troncones

Mexico

Troncones is often thought of as being simply a sleepy fishing and farming village, but this place has far more to offer than its catch of the day. With eco-friendly hotels having slowly popped up along its coastline, the tiny town (seriously, there are only 500 full-time residents) is for those who prefer to truly lose themselves within a local lifestyle. Surfers should make a beeline for the waves of Manzanillo Bay, while everyone else should snag a snorkel and paddle around its colourful reefs, keeping eyes peeled for baby turtles.

Where to stay: Lo Sereno

flamingos at isla holbox shore

Isla Holbox

Mexico

If you ever wondered where the locals holiday, this is it. Situated just off the north coast of the Yucatán Peninsula, Isla Holbox is nestled within the Yum Balam Nature Reserve, home to pelicans and flamingos. Getting here isn't exactly straightforward. In fact, the only way to reach the island is via a 20-minute ferry crossing from the mainland town of Chiquila. But those who make the journey will be well rewarded, enjoying dream days on Punta Coco Beach, among others. Insider tip: seafood fans shouldn't leave without ordering the lobster at least once - it's incredible.

Where to stay: Las Nubes de Holbox

chetumal mexico

Chetumal

Mexico

Virtually touching Belize, the charming city of Chetumal sits on the east coast of the Yucatán Peninsula. Its palm-fringed coastline is a highlight - we suggest wandering along it barefoot to discover the odd beach shack and a smattering of starfish. The food scene in town is also something to write home about. Set aside time to eat your way through Mercado Municipal, where you'll find all sorts of traditional Mexican dishes, from ceviche and machacados to empanadas.

Where to stay: Mayan Secret

lagoon in bacalar mexico

Bacalar

Mexico

Located less than an hour from the Mexico-Belize border, the city of Bacalar has a population that hovers around 12,000. Visit here for the 50km-long Lake Bacalar, also known as the Lagoon of Seven Colours, due to its many shades of blue. Beneath the surface, million-year-old reef-like microorganisms fuse with white limestone to create this surreal aqua spectacle, making for a hypnotically beautiful setting. But it's the go-slow lifestyle that really gets our vote, making it a perfect spot for some proper R&R.

Where to stay: Hotel Aires Bacalar

ceramics in puebla market mexico

Puebla

Mexico

Mexico's fourth-largest city, Puebla has long been recognised as the birthplace of many of the country's best-loved dishes. Our order? Gorditas - corn tortillas stuffed with various meats and cheeses. After ambitious chefs and independent boutiques moved in, the city's cultural scene really began to take off. While a huge rebuilding effort has been undertaken since the area's devastating 2017 earthquake, it remains virtually unexplored by tourists. If you're looking for a close-knit community, this is where you'll find it.

Where to stay: Cartesiano

colourful bunting in sayulita mexico

Sayulita

Mexico

Sat on the southern end of Nayarit state, this sleepy fishing village is blessed with views of both the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Though its colourful markets are a must for some stellar retail therapy, we're pegging Sayulita as Mexico's best spot for surfing. Local beaches offer waves so dramatic that renowned pros from the likes of Santa Monica and the Gold Coast are beginning to make an annual pilgrimage here.

Where to stay: Avela Boutique Hotel

san cristobal de las casas streetscape

San Cristóbal de las Casas

Mexico

This makes an ideal base for those who suffer from the get-up-and-go bug (AKA can never sit still). Offering a bohemian streetscape surrounded by the lush rolling Central Highlands countryside, San Cristóbal de las Casas is the ultimate playground for adventurers. If this sounds like you, be sure to pack your hiking gear and get scaling its rugged but rewarding terrain. Bikers should make time for a spin around the 6.8km-long Circuito Las Canastas trail - not one for the faint-hearted.

Where to stay: Casa Lum

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